Background: Closing out an anime series is a mixed bag these days since too many folks seem to leave enough of an opening for future spin off series, leave unanswered questions, or simply drop the ball and end a show in such a way as to let the fans down. You can count on one hand the number of recent shows that handle such endings with grace, intelligence, and in a way that finalizes the outcome but maintains the spirit of the show. One such series that went out with a bang instead of a whimper was Tetsujin 28 with Tetsujin 28: Advance: Tetsujin, the final volume of the series. It began with the robot standing trial in the court of public opinion during an inquiry of his status of a weapon of mass destruction, helped along by the enemies of people wearing the guise of industrialists with noble intentions, ending with a scene reminiscent of another robotic movie from pop culture, in such a way that any sequels would be a stretch. Here's some background before I get too far into my summarization of the show:
Series: Tetsujin 28: Advance: Tetsujin was the last in the Tetsujin 28 series and sought to tie up the loose ends. Most of you reading this will have already seen the previous volumes but just to remind you (and cover the bases for the new readers) I'll include the standard bit about the origins of the show, noting that revelations in the later episodes brought some of it into doubt. The series is decidedly anti-war but not to the point where people are told all conflict is evil as in some series, so here we go one last time:
"The story is set in the mid 1950's. Japan is being rebuilt by the American forces that occupy the country after defeating it in WWII. In flashback form, the brief history of a military program (near the end of the war) to defend the country by means of large robots is unveiled, led by the genius of Professor Kaneda. After 27 failed attempts, the final robot, Tetsujin 28, is a success but the professor, an adamant pacifist, decides his creation is simply too powerful to unleash on the world. Knowing that such a weapon would assist the world in continuing the spiral of destruction that has killed his wife and son, he hides his robot on his workshop island, never learning his son, Shotaro Kaneda, is still alive (a happy baby boy). In the ensuing ten years that follow, Shotaro grows up with a similar genius as his father but puts it to use to catch criminals as a young boy detective."
In previous episodes, the themes were more about Shotaro's denial of his mechanical albatross as he thought it were the source of evil but as the series progresses, he grows attached to it on a couple of levels; one in that it was the last legacy of his now deceased father and the second in that it is repeatedly pointed out to the headstrong boy detective that Tetsujin (the robot) is like any other device-only evil if wielded by evil hands. As a tool with no consciousness of its own, that forces him to take responsibility for his father's device and then use it for promoting good. This realization is almost always taken for granted in other series so it added something in terms of complexity to a show that seemed admittedly written for a youthful audience more than us old timers. This volume starts up with Tetsujin having received his worst beating yet, at the hands of a very powerful enemy who discovers Tetsujin's biggest secret to date; that at the core of his being is a sun bomb, while devoid of the bagume needed to activate it, still points to his existence in terms of being a weapon rather than a tool as Shotaro had come to believe previously.
Tetsujin 28: Advance: Tetsujin was comprised of the final four episodes of the series, 23) Tetsujin on Trial, 24) Shikishima Alive, 25) The Danger at Kurobe, and Crime and Punishment. The opening episode told the tale of the inquiry into Tetsujin's nature as a weapon with numerous speakers taking up the cause on both sides of the issue. An old enemy makes a guest appearance as a star witness and Shotaro is still engaged in an internal conflict over his feeling on the matter while the court-like proceeding takes place, breaking his silence at the end of the matter in a surprising manner. Then an old friend is back (or is he?!?) to take up the cause while the criminal organization known only as the PX Syndicate makes their move to up the stakes and capture any remaining bagume for their evil purposes. Tetsujin is still the focal point of a lot of controversy when a decision by Shotaro must be made regarding Tetsujin's use against a horde of ravaging robots that threaten the economic livelihood of Japan as well as seem poised on tearing apart the country based less on the will of the syndicate as on something outside the original consideration their makers had provided. Ending on a downbeat, the series actually provided a solid conclusion to the Tetsujin 28 series, unlike so many other anime series have of late.
Thematically, the show has made it a point to tie the present day of the show (which is set ten years after the end of WWII) to the events of the war. The anti-war sentiment is very strong throughout the show and we continue to find stragglers who can't seem to let go and become part of a better tomorrow thanks in large part to holding onto the comforts of hate, greed, or other human failings. Shotaro, as the child genius born out of the war to a father neck deep in the building of advanced weapons, represents a changing of the guard who always tries to do the right thing, no matter how painful it may be for him and those around him. Of all the characters, he should be the most easily swayed by the illusory benefits of returning to a path of war yet he holds strong in his convictions with a relatively clean slate (with the exception of his father's works that led to the building of Tetsujin 28). This is why he comes around to figuring out the tools aren't responsible for the destruction they cause so much as the ones who control the tools, leading him on his crusade to use what would've been a hugely devastating weapon (Tetsujin 28) for good as he protects those around him. Shotaro's annoying emotional outbursts aside, this was a pretty solid ending for the series and I hope a boxed set is released in the future to allow a bigger audience access at a reasonable cost (maybe even with better extras), so I rated this one as Recommended.
Picture: Tetsujin 28: Advance: Tetsujin was presented in the original 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen it was made in for Japanese television. The cover doesn't do this one justice as the shadowing, combination of traditional anime styles and CGI, and other visual effects were tweaked as if to take an older show and modernize it without losing the "look" of the original (except for the addition of color of course). In some ways, it was more like a movie in terms of how good it looked, although the cartoonish aspects were retained too. Give it a look and you'll immediately see what I mean. There were no compression artifacts though so even the DVD mastering seems to have been handled well.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices of the original Japanese or a newly made English dub, each in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles. The special effects and music sounded similar in each version although I believe the dub had some volume that added to the presence of that track. The choice between the original language track and the dub will depend on your personal preference but I liked both with a slight leaning toward the dub this time. The subtitles didn't exactly match the English language track but they were very close. Lastly, there were two subtitle streams, one for signs only and one for the vocals too.
Extras: The extras on the DVD were some trailers, a paper insert and a clean closing to the show's final episode; something of a tribute to the series from what I understand.
Final Thoughts: Tetsujin 28: Advance: Tetsujin closed out the story by allowing closure to most of the characters, giving the evil doers their just deserts too. Professor Kaneda's record was reestablished as something Shotaro could look up to and it once again established the concept of right over might as the hordes of Black Ox copies attacked Tetsujin by the dam. Each of the characters had their role to play too and I have to admit that while some of the previous material was kind of lame at times, Tetsujin 28: Advance: Tetsujin, provided all the necessary elements to end the show in the only way it could have ended without cheapening the previous ideas and subplots explored. As long as a lame sequel isn't started up, I think this one was a good show overall for the intended youthful audience.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.